This past August, President Robert Franklin opened convocation saying, “We are a historically Black college, but not exclusively Black.” In the same way, “We are a historically Baptist college, but not exclusively Baptist.”
Earlier in that same week, freshmen extended Olive Branches to member colleges of the AUC. It was a sign of students setting aside their differences and embracing each other.
We were taught to include rather than exclude, but where has this sentiment gone today?
Less than a five-minute walk west of Morehouse, Morris Brown College, one of the only historically Black colleges created for Black people by Black people, is ostracized by not only Morehouse, but also all members of the AUC.
Coincidence or not, the tradition that we call Olive Branch was founded by Morehouse and Morris Brown in the spring of 1997. According to Terronce Estell, a Morris Brown alumnus who was present at the first meeting to formulate Olive Branch, its mission was to combat the tension between the two schools at sports games, later inviting Spelman and Clark Atlanta to participate.
The activities were more inclusive than today’s Olive Branch. Each school learned about the historical significance of the others, sung each other’s chants and wore each other’s paraphernalia.
Today, it is more of a party and Morris Brown, one of its founding members, is not allowed to attend Olive Branch because it cannot pay its fees to be a part of the AUC.
After losing its accreditation as a result of fraud within the administration, Morris Brown has been reduced to approximately 150 students. These students confine themselves in what once was home to over 2,000 students, only making friends among their fellow classmates.
This is because AUC students refrain from associating themselves with the school.
We often question Morris Brown students’ reasons for remaining in a school that does not have accreditation. However, Estell, an admissions recruiter and student activities coordinator for Morris Brown, says that Morris Brown does have accreditation – academic, not federal.
“Many people don’t know the difference, and the media does not do a good job of clarifying it,” Estell said.
Morris Brown lost federal accreditation which brings in federal funding causing them to lose students who could not afford to pay on their own. Quite opposite of rumors, Morris Brown has academic accreditation granted by the Board of Education.
Although physically impaired by the loss of funds, Morris Brown’s academic standards remain the same. Students are still expected to complete the same work of their past peers. 97 percent of their professors hold doctorate degrees, teaching not only at Morris Brown, but across the AUC.
Having four surrounding colleges, not to mention fellow HBCUs, yet being pushed away by every single one is quite sad. As students of HBCUs, we should feel a sense of camaraderie with all HBCUs. After all, they were all founded for the same reason: to educate Black people.
So when one fails, we should feel as if we, too, have failed. We should embrace one another rather than pretend that we do not exist.
As students of the AUC, we benefit immensely from having interactions with Spelman College and Clark Atlanta University. The presence of each contributes to the other’s college life.
Two weekends ago when I visited Morris Brown for the first time, Biancka Bagget, a junior business major at Morris Brown, complained that “Morehouse invites Spelman, Clark and even ITC, a theological college, to its events, while leaving us behind.”
Miss Morris Brown College, Ammaria Edmond, agreed.
“However much a person tries to deny it, there cannot be a complete AUC without Morris Brown,” Edmond said. “We should try to become the family we once were.”
Morris Brown students would like to form relationships with students across the AUC, but they say that this is only possible if member colleges want to as well.
Instead of mocking them for their lack of funding, we as students of a HBCU should feel a sense of urgency to help rather than criticize, considering all it took them to get to this predicament was a click of their former president’s pen.
Students of Morris Brown cannot use the public library, AUC shuttles and, to add to the agony, they cannot share in the same social life we do.
I challenge you to stop criticizing Morris Brown because this can just as well be the fate of our school.
Instead, extend an Olive Branch in hope that Morris Brown College will use it to pull themselves back up to where they once were.
Christian Saint-Vil is a freshman at Morehouse College. From Queens, NY, majoring in English. To find out how you can help restore Morris Brown to its beauty and lustier contact Morris Brown’s SAVE OUR SCHOOL (SOS) at firstname.lastname@example.org.